Make a play for promotional fun

Toys and games bring out the fun—and the kid—in everyone. Brands that associate themselves with fun by thoughtfully including toys or games as part of their internal or external marketing efforts are instantly more engaging. But it’s always important to be strategic.

“So many sales associates misunderstand or underestimate how to effectively use these two categories,” says Dan Livengood, senior national account executive for Chanhassen, Minnesota distributor Business Impact Group (UPIC: Busin946). “Creating the right campaign using channels like these is more comprehensive than slapping a logo on a rubber ball.”

For example, it’s critical that the target audience’s attention span is taken into account. “Attention span today is much shorter than five years ago,” Livengood says. “Regardless of the target demographic, the product—and the campaign around it—have to be compelling.”

For ever-popular desktop toys, it’s important to think about the senses since the product is something the recipient could be using nearly every day. “You want something that people will hold or play with on a daily basis. It will give you the power to literally put a brand in their hands,” says Johanna Gottlieb, senior branding specialist in the Chicago office of New York City-based distributor Axis Promotions (UPIC: axispromo). Gottlieb touts the paper mouse pad as one of the most popular desktop promotional items. “While it’s not necessarily considered a toy, people can doodle on it and it’s so useful because every sheet is removable. Putting your logo, special event dates, or a call to action on something like that is very effective and inexpensive,” she says.

Just make sure to do your research and work with vendors who are compliant and who have tested any products that are considered toys, Gottlieb adds. For more information, visit and search for product safety and compliance.

⇒Think Outside The (Toy)box

When employees feel connected to a their company’s brand, it translates into

a better bottom line. Global professional services company Towers Watson’s three-year study of 41 multinational organizations found those with high engagement levels had two to four percent improvement in operating margin and net profit margin, whereas those with low engagement showed a decline of about 1.5 to two percent. Target HR departments to tout the benefits of engaged employees and using promotional products as part of a strong internal marketing campaign. Think new-hire gifts, desktop toys and logoed games for employee lunchtime socializing—bingo, anyone?

You Can’t Help Playing With These Fun Products


Teddy bears are the universal sign for love, care, and affection—making them perfect for any marketing campaign designed to warm the hearts of clients, employees and community members. Kirby is a soft, eight-inch brown bear that looks great in a logoed t-shirt. This product complies with all U.S. Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) product safety requirements and is safe for children of all ages.

Artistic Toy Manufacturing UPIC: ARTSTOY

Flexible Flyer blue web

Flexible Flyer

This folding flexible 10-inch diameter flyer sends your clients’ logos soaring—at the park, the beach or even just in the backyard. Available in blue, red, yellow, purple, green or white, the imprint area is a six-inch diameter on the flyer and a 2 ½-inch diameter on the pouch.

Tempo Industries UPIC: Temp0001

PaintSheets web


Magic Paint Poster

Restaurants, churches, child care centers, schools and car dealerships are perfect businesses to pitch the Magic Paint Poster. It’s a great way to engage kids and families with brands while also providing educational entertainment.

California Tattoos UPIC: caltatto

Jornik robot cube web


Robo Cube Puzzle

Turn this poseable, wooden seven-inch robot, inspired by Japanese kumiki puzzles, into a cube—or any creative shape you want. Made from genuine hardwood in a natural finish with strong elastic bands holding the segments together, it's a durable toy that will sit on a desk, shelf or counter for years to come.

Jornik Manufacturing Corp. UPIC: JORNIK



Magic Bubbles webTest Tube Bubbles

Schools, child-care centers, car washes, pool companies and more will love this unique promotional item. The formula for the bubbles is created so that these bubbles don’t pop when they hit the air or even when they are touched. Offered in assorted colored test tubes only (red, green, yellow and blue), and the colors may vary. Safe and non-toxic.

Essef Distributors UPIC: 7414140



Case Study

Building Block webStackable building block stress relievers can fit into a variety of promotional campaigns focusing on the concept of building, whether it’s community, visibility, customers, a team, ideas or actual buildings. For example, one chamber of commerce handed out the colorful, stackable building block stress relievers at an annual community festival, imprinted with the words, “Building a better community.”

Source: Ariel Premium Supply


Table Top Football Game webTabletop Football Game

Fingers do the kicking in this new Football Table Top Game, perfect for home, office, retail or restaurants. The game can also be used as a counter top or box top point of purchase display. Minimum order of one.

MAC Specialties Ltd. UPIC: SPORTPRO




Moodoggle web2Moodoggle

Sports teams, camps, theme parks, driving schools and car dealerships are just some of the businesses that should consider this fun key-ring kit with choice of two mood string colors, imprinted mood charm and charm clip. The mood charm and mood strings change colors with the heat of your hands.



Toilet and PlungerToilet with Plunger web

What plumber or cleaning company can resist giving out this desktop toy? Hold pens in the tank and paperclips in the bowl. The magnetized plunger picks up the paperclips and also serves as a phone stand. Made of soft silicone material.

Minya International Corp. UPIC:minya


Audience Engagement

Working with entertainment clients means that Axis Promotions is constantly coming up with creative and fun promotion ideas. But they don’t limit the playfulness to the promoting television shows. Here are some ways that Axis has creatively used toys and games to help clients in their promotional campaigns.

zombie dartsZombie Dartboard

To promote the season premiere of the hit show, “The Walking Dead,” Axis Promotions (UPIC: axispromo) created customized zombie dartboard gifts for ad space buyers—people who get a lot of gifts and have seen everything before. “We wanted to produce something from scratch that they had never seen before using amazing full-color graphics and thought it would be great to do a whole ‘killing zombie’ theme for a game that they could play in their home or office,” says Lauren Laschewer of Axis. With a short time frame, Laschewer turned to Jeff Plitt of Details/K-Poster (UPIC: KPOS0001), who was able to help source and produce a professional-grade dartboard from scratch. The result? “Everyone loved it and we got several repeat orders from the client,” says Laschewer.


axis promo bloom tailgate webBean Bag Toss

For a senior living organization, Axis has set up a program where organization directors can access a web store and buy specific items for their communities. Especially popular was the cornhole bean-bag toss game from Promotoss. Since senior living homes continually have in-house events and open houses, current and future residents get to be active and have fun when using this product.


Moma Calendar webDesktop Toy

When a client wanted some cool premiums to roll out their new Making Advertising Welcome campaign, Axis used the MoMA perpetual calendar from IMC, a desktop toy. By adding custom belly bands produced by an outside vendor and wrapped by IMC, the final product had a nice—and welcoming—retail look

Source: Axis Promotions


Create ROI Using Toys and Games

For Livengood and his colleagues at Business Impact Group, understanding a client’s initiatives and working from clearly stated objectives is paramount in any campaign. “Then, in order to create a fair ROI for your client, the campaign needs staying power and purpose.” Using toys and games creatively is a great way to accomplish this.IA_egg_game

For example, incorporating the ViewMaster® for new product launches, destination teasers or new services has resulted in successful and measurable campaigns. “Using this type of retro toy that’s nicely packaged with other informative collateral helps the campaign reach its goal of educating, informing or presenting a call-to-action message to the consumer,” says Livengood.

Another education campaign he created is a custom egg-toss game for the Iowa Egg Council to use at family-friendly events. The objective was to educate consumers on egg consumption benefits through an interactive trivia challenge. The questions are harder when the holes are bigger, so if you want an easy question, you have to make it through a more difficult opening. Players are rewarded with tiered prizes when they toss the stress egg through the hole and answer the multiple-choice question correctly. As a consolation prize, they get the actual stress egg they used for the game. “The client feels a whole lot better ordering their stress egg toys when they are used for a specific initiative. In this case—to educate,” Livengood says.